News flash: The Golden Rule doesn’t work! We’re all different. So why do we think everyone wants to be treated the way we would want to be treated? The fact is that we can’t treat people the way we want to be treated because everyone has different motivations, learning styles, goals and cultural backgrounds. Therefore, it’s time to follow the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated.
Thinking we need to treat everyone the same because it’s fair is one of today’s biggest leadership misconceptions. Is it really the right thing to do … or is it the easy thing to do? Leaders need to accept that each employee is different, and they need to make the effort to find out how each individual on their team wants to be treated. Each one of your employees has goals, motivations, values, and learning styles. Some are motivated by money or status, while others by free time and flexibility. Knowing this, should you offer the same types of incentives to all of them? When you understand and take action on these differences, your employees can reach their true potential, experience greater happiness at work, and be more productive in their jobs, which leads to higher employee retention and a healthier bottom line.
So how do leaders overcome the challenge of accepting that we are all different and need to be treated differently? Here are a few suggestions for making the Platinum Rule work for you:
- Dig Deep – Get beyond the superficial and learn about your employees and what makes them tick. Take advantage of the following ways to dig deep:
- Conduct personal histories meetings/discussions – Find out about your employees’ childhood, families, hobbies, favorite jobs, etc. These meetings can happen one-on-one or in groups.
- Ask – Meet one-on-one with each team member to ask them about their values, motivations, and learning styles. Here are some sample questions:
- Think back to a time when you were incredibly motivated at work. What happened right before that to make you feel that way?
- Think back to a time when you had to learn something new and it just “clicked” for you. What method of learning did you use?
- Conduct personality assessments – There are many good personality assessments on the market (Innermetrix, Profiles International, DISC, etc.). These assessments are typically very accurate and may give you, and your employees, important insight on their styles, talents, values and motivations.
Observe – Watch your team during meetings, high stress situations, and social situations, and take note of their styles and reactions. Do they take the lead in meetings or do they follow? Are they agreeable or do they play devil’s advocate? Do they thrive under pressure or wilt?
- Differentiated learning and development – One size DOES NOT fit all in the area of learning and development. Learning programs should incorporate a level of flexibility to support individuals with different needs and learning styles.
Some specific ways to add individual flexibility include:
- Self assessments to determine specific developments needs
- Goal plans to tailor development action items
- Facilitated discussions to engage the audience instead of one-size-fits-all lectures
- Use of various delivery mechanisms including eLearning, instructor-led classes, webcasts, case studies, projects, activities, and workshops
- Differentiated motivation/compensation – We tend to try to motivate people the way we would be motivated. We assume if we’re motivated by money, other people will be as well. The key here again is to incorporate a level of flexibility to support people in different life situations with different motivations.
If someone’s primary motivation is quality time with their family, incenting them with a dollar bonus if they work extra hours will not work very well. Incenting them with additional vacation time would be a much better idea.
Instead of assuming that all bonuses and rewards should be monetary, try some of these other incentives depending on the motivations of the individual:
- Vacation time
- Time for volunteer work or other special interests
- Donations to their favorite charity
- Public recognition (town hall meeting, company newsletter, etc.)
- Take them and their families out to dinner
- Send them on a trip
- Pay for training or a seminar they’re interested in
- Vary communication mediums – Twenty years ago, communication was much simpler. Face-to-face, phone, and print were just about the only options we had. These days we’ve got email, instant messaging, texting, webcasts, blogs, social networks, and more. Choosing the right communication medium is more important than ever.
While generational differences aren’t the only reason to vary communication mediums, it’s certainly an important one. For an importance message, baby boomers may be much more responsive to face-to-face or phone communications. Generation Y may be just as comfortable with instant messaging or texting. You’ll also find that while some people may never answer their phones, they’ll respond to email with lightening speed. Others may only look at email once per day.
Before you communicate, make sure you understand the different communication styles within, and across teams, and vary communication mediums as necessary.